The Importance for Righteousness, Justice, and Advocacy in Cannabis and in America
There are two sides to the history of justice in our country – demonization and glory.
By Meagan Sargent
At a young age, many of us were told, through programs similar to D.A.R.E, of the negative effects of drugs – cannabis included. These programs held little to no factual evidence. Many of us took the information as gospel because we were too naive to consider asking “why.” Even as policy across the country moves in favor of legalization, there are many adults who can’t be honest about their relationship with the plant due to their fear of being criminalized for using it.
When we look at the headlines and read the news that states like New York and Virginia are being added to the list of states that now offer adult-use cannabis, we must remember that in states like Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia, many potential cannabis patients don’t have fair-access to the plant and they may face persecution for their attempted use. This is why education and community advocacy—in all its forms—is the key to changing the narrative in states who refuse to get with the program.
Undoubtedly, our criminal justice system targets underrepresented and marginalized communities harsher in certain parts of our country than others.
A report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, mentions that African-Americans are arrested at nearly four times the rates of whites for cannabis use. This blatant truth plays a part in the systemic racism that is ingrained in our justice system.
Take the case of Sean Worsley, a disabled, Black Iraq War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who was sentenced to 60 months in prison after a medical marijuana arrest. Worsley was legally prescribed medical marijuana in Arizona after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although prescribed legally, Worsley crossed state lines, and unbeknownst to him, broke the law.
In November 2020, after years of legal battles that cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and unexplainable distress, Worsley was released after serving 10 months in various Alabama jails. “Our system failed Sean. There’s got to be a better way to handle a totally disabled Iraq War Veteran with PTSD and TBI who had medical marijuana,” John L. Carroll, former U.S. magistrate judge and Marine Corps veteran has stated.
By examining the persecution of Worsley, we should ask ourselves why only White, males have the power and the privilege to access adequate healthcare and the cannabis industry. In cases like this, we can only ask the “what if” questions like:
- What if we lived in a country that prioritized the health of everyone and not a select few?
- What if everyone accepted that fair access to the health benefits of cannabis is a social justice issue?
- What if Worsley lived in a country where righteousness and justice were truly championed?
- What if Worsley had the luxury of carrying his medicine with him wherever he goes?
- What if racism never existed and Worsley never was stopped that day?
- What if Worsley were white? Would he have been given a pass?
As of now, Worsley may physically be a free man, but mentally we have so far to go and it starts with education and accountability. From setting up a GoFundMe campaign to providing moral support, many community advocates, including libertarians and cannabis activists, pushed for not only Worsley’s freedom, but to shed light on the inconsistencies People of Color face when accessing the plant. Their work is a reminder that we all must do our part to ensure the laws are consistent regardless of race and status.
Unfortunately, Worsley’s tale is quite common in Black and Brown communities.
In Alabama, a Black person is 4.1 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use, whereas in Montana this statistic jumps to over 9.6%. In fairly “liberal” states such as New York and California the same statistic is 2.6 vs. 1.8 respectfully. Advocates across the country are hoping that these statistics change as policy advances to stop persecution related to the plant.
“You cannot talk about cannabis justice without speaking on social justice. Race has, and always will be, a part of the equation despite what others may be wanting to calculate. With this newfound awakening that the world and this industry, in particular, has embarked on, it’s our chance, as a community, to truly be the change,” Deon Hawkins, a Cannabis Commentator, and Connoisseur states. “Creating more methods of educating individuals, consumer or not, is the first step we must do collectively as a nation.
By creating awareness and educating our community, we can view cannabis as it is: a plant. A plant that contains a multitude of benefits that can change every way of life. Cannabis isn’t going anywhere, but the way we access it could be.”
In every aspect, community advocacy is important because you can use the entire rhetorical triangle to connect with yourself and your various communities. With community advocacy, clear messaging and digestible facts are necessary for creating lasting change. It’s about creating equal opportunities across the board - in your community and beyond.
Once we are able to appreciate the plant for its capacity to refresh our perspectives without the fear of systemic oppression, then we will understand why veterans like Worsley, who is still fighting for fair-access to the plant, has the courage to write: “[Mary Jane,] you truly have been a GOD SEND in MY LIFE, I LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY THAT WE ARE SOON REUNITED!”.
To read an exclusive Letter to Mary Jane written by Worsley, then click here!
And if you’re interested in learning why advocacy and education are the key to granting everyone access to the benefits of the cannabis plant, then read a few more quotes from our favorite Cannabis Advocates.
1. Dr. Delvena Thomas, a board-certified psychiatrist and CEO of DRT Behavioral Service
(While Dr. Thomas may not personally use cannabis or CBD as a form of self-care because she is a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve, she still acknowledges the benefits.)
“I saw some of my patients weren't doing well with conventional medicine, and Western medicine really limits itself. But for mental health and wellness you have to think beyond just a pill. For a while I was opposed to cannabis being involved in the care and regimen of psychiatric patients, however I began to look at a lot of studies, data, and literature and sometimes you have to open your mind and consider that there are other ways to solve a problem and make someone better.”
2. Antonio Frazier, President of CannaSafe
“Cannabis is well ingrained in most communities, so anything that destigmatizes its use is crucial. That shame has driven so many people to opioids, which have been much more detrimental to our communities.”
3. Dasheeda Dawson, Bestselling Author - The WeedHead™ & Company
“There are tons of psychological barriers to cannabis acceptance for people of color, specifically within Black communities. This is largely due to the demonization of the cannabis plant through multiple decades of federal, state, and local prohibition. My mission over the past five years has been to legitimize, to stabilize, and to diversify the legal cannabis industry. I entered the industry as a patient advocate in the Arizona medical cannabis market, which quickly led to my desire to infuse more real science into the industry's best practices particularly around business strategy, community education, and government leadership.”
About Meagan Sargent
Meagan is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and reporter who specializes in writing articles about lifestyles, relationships, health, wellness, and travel for brands and media companies. Her work has been published at, US Weekly, Life&Style, InTouch, Hollywood Life, Tinder Swipe Life, and elsewhere. She's traveled to various countries, tried various foods, visited cannabis cafes, and spilled her personal dating experiences in the name of journalism.